Be brave! Make a fancy cake

For my son’s first birthday last year, I made this:

If you aren’t familiar with the children’s television show Dinosaur Train on PBS, this is what the cake is supposed to resemble:

I started by baking a standard chocolate cake in a set of Wilton Choo-Choo Train cake pans a day before my son’s birthday. I poured the batter into one side of the cake pan, put the second pan on top, tied the two pans together with cooking twine, and baked the cake a little longer than the recipe recommended (roughly 7 to 10 minutes more). Once finished, I took the pans out of the oven and let everything cool.

The next day, I took the cake out of the pans, carefully set it on a cardboard cake circle and turntable, and decorated it with icing using a star tip. I bought the icing at my local grocery store, and my star tip attached directly to the tube.

I had never decorated a cake before that day, so it took me three hours to get all of the icing onto the cake. It wasn’t difficult, but I did have to continually reference the image I’d printed of the train from the internet. I had considered making miniature Buddy and Tiny characters out of fondant icing (the way they do on all the fancy cake shows), but since it took me so long to ice the cake, I just put some dinosaur figures on the turntable and called it done.

Honestly, I was incredibly surprised by how simple the cake was to make. Sure, it took some time, but it wasn’t hard like I thought it might be. And, when I did mess up, I just wiped off the mistake with the tip of a butter knife and redid the area. If you’ve wanted to make a fancy birthday cake but were nervous to try, I suggest going for it. Worst case scenario, you’ll get a funny story out of the experience and rush to your local bakery to buy a replacement. Best case scenario, you’ll get an amazing cake.

6 comments posted

  1. Posted by Erin Doland - 06/29/2011

    Forgot to mention that when I was finished, I packed up the cake pan and sent it to a friend who had a nephew with an upcoming birthday.

  2. Posted by infmom - 06/29/2011

    For my son’s third birthday, I made him a cake that looked like Cookie Monster, complete with tons of spiky blue frosting.

    That’s how we found out he’s allergic to blue food coloring.

  3. Posted by Erin Doland - 06/30/2011

    @infmom — Oh no! That is a very similar story to how we found out my son is allergic to peanuts.

  4. Posted by hnahk - 06/30/2011

    that is freaking amazing! i’m curious though, is that the pork ad on your wall?

  5. Posted by Erin Doland - 06/30/2011

    @hnahk — Good eye. My dining room is decorated in all things meat. What you can see is a 6′ x 4′ piece of artwork that was produced to be a New York Subway ad for the National Pork Council. After all the ads were hung in the stations, there were two that weren’t used. I called the advertising agency that created the ad (the same folks who did the Got Milk campaign, by the way) and asked if I could buy one. They ended up giving me both for free. One was severely damaged in transport, and the one that wasn’t I framed and gave to my husband for our wedding present. The artwork says: “I scream. You scream. We all scream for pork loin.”

    We also have three identical portraits of a demonic little girl eating a piece of ham (it’s aptly titled “Demonic Ham Girl”: http://www.plan59.com/av/av050.htm) that hang as a triptych, and there is a giant art print of a Chicago-style hot dog: http://deliciousdesignleague.c.....ndex=34#34

  6. Posted by Jessica - 08/29/2011

    Did the cake rise enough to fill both pans? I want to do this with Lighting McQueen for my sons second birthday. But am unsure of how it will work.

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